What is dental anxiety?
Put simply, dental anxiety is being nervous and afraid about the thought of going to the dentist. It exists in many forms, from simply being a little on edge to being completely unable to see a professional about your teeth and gums.
It's more common in some sections of society, such as amongst middle-aged women where it's estimated to be roughly one in every three, but anyone can be affected by this anxiety.
The problem is that when people don't go to the dentist, it can mean they are not receiving the medical care they need to remain healthy. Additionally, issues are often left to advance before the sufferer finally makes it to a professional, making the problem much harder to deal with than it would have been had they made an appointment right away.
Anxiety can occur for many reasons, from 'learning' this behaviour from parents or other family members, to dealing with a stressful dental situation in the past. There is also the fact that it's a very rare occasion to have someone else taking a close look inside your mouth, which can seem like a strange experience and puts people off. It may even stem from a specific fear, such as needles or blood.
Whatever the reason, it's important to take steps to overcome this anxiety for your oral health.
Top ways to deal with dental anxiety
Start by getting to know your dentist. Instead of booking a check-up, book in a time just to talk to your dentist about your dental history, questions you may have and the fact that treatments can make you anxious. This is a great way to literally get a foot in the door and learn to get to know and trust your dentist before getting into the chair.
Another tip is to ask a friend or family member to come with you. Most dentists will happily let someone sit in the room with you if you are nervous, and they can help keep you calm with their presence throughout the appointment. Plus, going with a friend can keep you from cancelling the appointment at the last minute, which can be half the battle.
You can also ask your dentist to talk you through each step of any appointments. This will include them telling you what's going to happen and showing you any instruments they will need. This may help you gain a greater understanding of the procedure, and therefore less uncertainty.
Another option is to ask for breaks during any treatments. A few minutes here and there to calm down and rest may make the procedure easier.
If music is something that has always kept you calm, talk to your dentist about bringing in a playlist for any appointments. This way, you can distract yourself with your favourite songs during the check-up or treatment.
The best way to care for your teeth year-round is good dental hygiene at home. Regular brushing and flossing, non-smoking and a diet that's low in sugars are all simple ways to look after your oral health. Therefore, you may suffer fewer dental problems and have less to worry about when it is time for an appointment!
Go more often. It certainly sounds counter-intuitive, but going every six months - or more regularly than you usually would - may also help. This can create a routine and make check-ups a more regular occurrence in everyday life, which will hopefully make them more of something you simply have to turn up to rather than something to be wary of.
It's unlikely that you will ever look forward to your dental visits and get excited about upcoming appointments, but you can at least work on reducing fears and looking after your teeth at home.